President Trump and House Democrats on Collision Course
Although Republicans have had control of both houses of Congress and the presidency for the last two years, they have struggled to fulfill promises of substantial policy change, unfortunately leaving critical issues like immigration and healthcare unsolved. With the midterm elections now giving Democrats control of the House and Republicans an expanded majority in the Senate, it is safe to assume that gridlock in Washington is about to get even worse.
Still, most of this gridlock will not arise simply from disagreement on policy, but rather from partisan attacks or investigations. Now that Democrats have authority over the various committees in the House, they will be able to issue subpoenas to investigate the President and make his term in office more difficult, as some have already promised to do.
Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), who is expected to become chairperson of the House Committee on Ways and Means, stated that a top priority of his will be subpoenaing President Trump’s tax returns. The latter responded by saying that he would refuse to comply with Neal’s request due to his tax returns being under continuous audit, adding that he would be willing to take the fight to the courtroom if needed.
Similarly, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the likely chairperson of the House Intelligence Committee, has announced his intentions to aggressively investigate possible ties between the President and Russia. This includes signing off on a subpoena of phone records from a blocked cell phone President Trump used during the campaign. Schiff suspects this phone was the blocked device Donald Trump Jr. contacted while planning a meeting with Russian officials to attain damaging information on Hillary Clinton. If his suspicions are confirmed, it would imply President Trump approved of his son’s controversial actions.
And, of course, there still remains the small possibility of Democrats bringing impeachment proceedings against the President’s now-confirmed nominee to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, after a long and divisive confirmation process and an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against him. Last week, one reporter allegedly overheard Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), future chairperson of the House Judiciary Committee, speaking on the phone while on a train to Washington about his plans to impeach Kavanaugh. Nadler has since denied having plans to this end but has expressed a desire to investigate whether the FBI investigation was adequate.
Even so, Democrats are not the only ones threatening attacks and investigations. When asked about House Democrats potentially issuing subpoenas on matters involving the Russia investigation, his phone use, and his tax returns, President Trump responded, “If that happens, then we're going to do the same thing, and government comes to a halt,” referring to perhaps opening investigations into Democratic lawmakers over leaks of classified information. President Trump’s response certainly tells us that he is prepared to retaliate and is anticipating two years of what he called “war-like posture” if Democrats bombard him with investigations.
It’s difficult to remain optimistic in the government’s ability to serve the people over the next two years. Democrats should recognize that the contents of President Trump’s tax returns are not exactly of pressing concern to most Americans, and at the same time, the President should respect the Democrats’ power to oversee the actions of the president and not threaten them with petty retaliation. When the President and some Democrats are more focused on damaging each other’s reputations than on addressing issues that are affecting millions of Americans, gridlock is the inevitable and dangerously inadequate result.